Communities vital to delivering on the promise of new global HIV treatment guidelines

June 30, 2013

STOP AIDS NOW!, the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance (the Alliance), welcome the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) new guidelines on the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the treatment and prevention of HIV and call on governments, multilateral and bilateral agencies, and donors to ensure that communities are meaningfully engaged as countries implement these guidelines.

The WHO guidelines were launched at the 7th International AIDS Society conference on HIV Pathogenesis Treatment and Prevention taking place in Kuala Lumpur this week.

Early treatment

The new guidelines recommend that people living with HIV can start ART with a CD4 count of 500 cells/mm3 or less, compared with a CD4 count of 350 cells/mm3 or less previously (2010 WHO ART Guidelines). Starting treatment earlier has shown to slow clinical progression, reduce the chance of life-threatening conditions such as tuberculosis (TB), and has the added benefit of reducing the risk of HIV transmission. The guidelines also recommend offering treatment regardless of CD4 count (i.e. immediate treatment after HIV diagnosis) to pregnant women, children under five years old, people in relationships where one partner is living with HIV and the other is not, and people living with TB or Hepatitis B.

We support the emphasis on offering quality treatment sooner to people living with HIV that meets their differing personal health needs, and delivering treatment in a sustainable manner that increases choice and improves health.

Community action

The ownership, involvement and action of people living with HIV and their communities has significantly contributed to the increase in access to ART over the past decade. To ensure continued improvements in health for all, the WHO and health ministries must partner with communities to create an enabling political and legal environment for communities to ensure that individual human rights are protected. For instance, by integrating and monitoring human rights aspects of the new guidelines to protect the health and rights of people living with HIV and other key populations.

STOP AIDS NOW!, GNP+, and the Alliance are working together to develop a ‘Community Guide’ for use by networks, community-based organisations, and other civil society organisations supporting community action on AIDS. The Guide aims to support communities to position themselves in discussions at regional and national levels about policy-making, programming, implementation and evaluation of programmes that use treatment. Download our joint statement in response to the guidelines